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Fitzgerald Says Innovation Drew White House To Pittsburgh

Amie Downs
President Obama greets Allegehny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald after landing in Pittsburgh.

Imagine taking a Port Authority bus during your regular rush hour commute. Only instead of making your way along in the manner of fluid trickling from an eye dropper, your bus is traveling at a swift and steady pace thanks to a newly installed short-range communication device that shares routes with the traffic signal network.

Thanks to an $11 million federal grant Pittsburgh is receiving for advanced technology transportation projects, Port Authority buses in Allegheny County will soon be equipped with such devices. And according to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the far-reaching impact will go beyond mass transit.

“The average person will see improvement in their drive times,” Fitzgerald said. “Traffic will get better because smart signaling will allow traffic to flow better. And it’s not just vehicular traffic, it’s pedestrians, it’s bikes, it’s the whole group of folks who are trying to get through Grant Street or Forbes Avenue.”

Fitzgerald said Pittsburgh received the grant money from the National Department of Transportation because it’s considered a city that’s open to innovation.

“I think the federal government and the White House view Pittsburgh as a leading edge region,” said Fitzgerald. “And the fact is they continue to invest in Smart Growth here.”

According to Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh’s growing reputation as an innovation hub is part of what has prompted President Obama to make frequent visits to Pittsburgh during his two terms in the White House.

“He (Obama) comes here a lot because he really sees what’s going on in Pittsburgh,” Fitzgerald said. “And he’s talked often to Mayor Peduto and myself, asking us ‘What have you guys done? How have you been able to do this? I’d like to be able to replicate this in other older, industrial Midwest cities that haven’t seen the success that Pittsburgh has over the last few years.'"   

Fitzgerald said the city has maintained a working relationship with the White House in that time. 

“It’s been a good run for Pittsburgh over these last eight years," he said.